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Tillerson: Iran deal fails to achieve nuclear-free objective

20 April 2017

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on April 19 said last year's nuclear deal with Iran failed because it "only delays their goal of becoming a nuclear state" and does not address "alarming ongoing provocations" by Iran in the Middle East.

But a senior administration official said the White House is serious about its reservations with the agreement, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Tillerson said in his statement that the review will determine whether the suspension of sanctions "is vital to the national security interests of the United States".

While not saying definitively whether the administration is inclined to uphold or scrap the deal, Tillerson said they will meet the challenge of Iran with "clarity and conviction" once the review is done.

Tillerson said Mr. Trump's administration has, "no intention of passing the buck to a future administration".

The agreement exchanged limits on Iran's nuclear program to thwart its ability to create a nuclear weapon with the lifting of crippling global economic and oil sanctions.

During his presidential campaign, Trump called the agreement "the worst deal ever negotiated".

The next test of Trump's attitude towards the nuclear deal will be in May when he must decide whether to extend sanctions waivers for Iran first signed by President Barack Obama.

"Iran remains a leading state sponsor of terror through many platforms and methods", Tillerson said in his letter Tuesday.

Under the global agreement, Iran is allowed to enrich and store some uranium for energy production, although it had to reduce its uranium stockpile by 96 percent, idle many of its enrichment centrifuges and pour concrete into its heavy-water nuclear reactor. Spicer said that the USA might impose additional sanctions against Iran following the review, while cognizant of the potential fallout sanctions could cause. Trump this week ordered his National Security Council to review whether to reimpose sanctions that were eased under the accord because of Iran's continued support for terrorism.

The European Union's foreign policy chief, Frederica Mogherini, said last month after meetings with senior Trump administration officials she was reassured in the talks that the USA was committed to fully implementing the deal.

But US allies like Israel and Saudi Arabia were concerned the JCPOA does not shut down Iran's nuclear industry entirely nor forever, and Obama's domestic critics accused him of appeasing a terrorist state.

The whiplash left Republicans on Capitol Hill, who had universally excoriated the agreement to limit Iran's nuclear program and voted against its implementation, uncertain how to respond. On the one hand, Trump wants to show he's tougher than Obama was, but on the other hand, he's not ready to rip up the deal.

Iran has supported the Syrian government during the conflict in that country, militias fighting ISIS in Iraq - including the Popular Mobilization Forces - and Houthi rebels in Yemen, as well as backed groups such as Hezbollah, a Lebanon-based militia.

Reiterating the charge yesterday, Tillerson said Iran's provocative actions threaten the United States, the region and the world.

Trump's spokesman Sean Spicer said the review would be conducted by U.S. government agencies over the next 90 days and recommendations would be presented to the president as to whether to stick by the deal.